Graded on a Curve: Rammstein,
Paris

Rammstein could teach P.T. Barnum a thing or two. Live, they’re the total entertainment package; simultaneously Goth metal band, fire hazard, and comedy act, they’re Götterdämmerung with guitars, Wagner’s Die Walküre without the woman in winged helmets.

Your average Rammstein show may begin with the band being led through the audience by a cowled druid holding a flaming torch, and things tend to get really weird after that. On the tactfully titled “Pussy,” lead singer Till Lindemann rides a penile ejaculation cannon that spews confetti. And when band crackup Christian “Flake” Lorenz–who plays Flava Flav to Lindemann’s Chuck D–isn’t doing the gerbil on the treadmill while he plays keyboards, he’s doing spastic Sprockets dances, riding a rubber lifeboat on a sea of hands, or being unceremoniously tossed into a bathtub and showered with glitter. You won’t see that at a Katatonia concert.

But let’s not forget the fire. It erupts volcanically from the stage, shoots from the mouths of the guitarists, sets the angel wings Lindemann dons for “Engel” alight, and streams from the flamethrower/ glorified gas station nozzle Lindemann uses to set an extra on fire in “Benzin.” It’s like WWII all over again on that stage, and Lindemann’s grime-smeared face and “Stalingrad Survivor” couture only add to the mood, as does the bands penchant for marching in lockstep. There’s nothing fascistic about any of this, mind you–fascists have no sense of humor, and Lindemann’s fashion sense evokes images of Herbie Mann at a leather bar.

Rammstein are a Goth metal band with the accent on both words; the Goth comes in the form of unabashed melodrama and a lighter touch (think Lorenz’s keyboards), while the metal is top-notch, bones-in-your-ears-crushing fare. In short you get the best of both worlds, and you get it in German, the lingua franca of the country that gave us both Bauhaus and Krupp steel. And speaking of the German language, how is that everybody at their live shows seems to know the lyrics to every single song? Is it possible Hitler actually won the Second World War?

On 2017’s Paris, recorded live during a pair of shows in 2112, Rammstein give you the most for your entertainment buck. The music is great, and what’s more Paris is a double double album, which means you can cut Christmas gift expenses by 75 percent simply by divvying it up and giving friends one disc apiece. I did it last year and my chums haven’t spoken to me since. Ingrates–next year I plan to gift them copies of Danzig Sings Elvis.

But to return to the music, the songs on Paris are by turns anthemic, bombastic and cathartic, and Rammstein are quite adept at subtly changing the mood by interspersing the stomp stomp stomp with Lorenz’s lighter touch. And their musical influences are by no means limited to the Goth and metal genres. On songs like “Ohne Dich” I detect elements of good old-fashioned Schlager Muzik, which is beloved by Germany’s edge-of-the-gravers but holds no appeal to anyone else on the planet. But Rammstein somehow manage to incorporate Schlager into their sound, and by doing so give it an added dimension not to be found in the Goth metal of England and America.

I’m a fan of every song on Paris, but I have my favorites. I love that “Bang! Bang!” in “Feuer Frei,” and the way Lindemann name drops the WonderBra in “Amerika.” (No wonder living in the Land of the Frei “ist Wunderbar”!) And I have nothing but good things to say about the Middle Eastern by way of Led Zeppelin “Mein Herz brennt.” As for the aforementioned “Pussy,” Lindemann delivers what is probably the suavest pickup line in history: “You’ve got a pussy/I have a dick/So, what’s the problem?” A regular Jean-Paul Belmondo, our Till. Oh, and he also makes reference to bratwurst and sauerkraut, which could be some kind of sexual metaphor but I hope not.

On the plaintive “Mutter,” Lindemann complains he wasn’t allowed to lick mom’s nipples, which I wish he’d stop whining about seeing as how he’s a big rock star and has had more opportunities to lick nipples over the course of his lifetime than the male population of my hometown. The band engages in a bit of self-promotion with the crowd-stirring chant “Rammstein!” on “Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?”, while on “Mann gegen Mann” you get both a powerhouse chorus and some excellent keyboard canoodling by Lorenz. And I could go one–Paris is crammed with enough great songs to pack a city bus.

What I love most about Rammstein is their sense of fun. Very few Goth metal bands come complete with comedian, or include a bit where their lead singer rides a militarized cock the way Slim Pickens yahooed! that nuke in Dr. Strangelove. Needless to say you see none of this on Paris, but so far as concert souvenirs go it’s top of the line. Why, you can practically feel the heat of Lindemann’s blowtorch rising from the LP’s grooves. Play it loud enough, you many even spontaneously combust!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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